if, on a summer’s day, a traveler…

my computer lost its ability to connect to the internet a couple of days ago.  i’ve been traveling all over the place, using internet in hostels, homes, trains, and buses.  then, when we came to our brooklyn homebase, the apartment of t’s bff, i discovered i couldn’t connect to his internet.  then i learned i could connect to no one’s internet.

somehow, right when i was thinking of going on a solitary field trip to an apple store to get my computer fixed, my brain did something like:

busy saturday–> sunday’s free–>  go on sunday–>  quaker meeting!

so for i made a 2:00 appointment at an apple store and then looked up the closest quaker meeting to where i was staying– the brooklyn quaker meeting.  i learned it was just a couple of stops from where i was.

so this morning i woke up, went to the subway, went downstairs and sweated like crazy.  in the train stations here, i don’t even recognize what i feel as heat, but my forehead immediately starts streaming sweat.  i got off at the hoyt-schermerhorn stop, and started my walk.  fortunately, i started off in the right direction.  i passed the friends school family center, a teacher supply store, and the criminal court, and then knew i was in the right place, because i saw some foliage and a man walking a bicycle through an open gate.

i was enthusiastically welcomed into the beautiful old building by a young woman, and then walked up the stairs to the worship room.

before today i’d been to this meetinghouse, i’d participated in sunday morning worship at 3 meetings: whitby, england, in early 2001, san francisco regularly for the past 6 years, and the berkeley friends meeting once about a year or 2 ago.  possibly because of that, or because i’ve been in “soak up my surroundings mode” for the past few months, or maybe just because it’s how i’ve been in worship lately anyway, i spent most of the meeting contemplating my surroundings and the people in it.

one of the first things that struck me was that there were a few people of color there, who all seemed to feel at home, which is something that our meeting has continuously struggled with.

i also noticed that the doors never closed.  i liked the welcoming feel of that and didn’t think it was distracting, outside of the fact that i was distracted by everything anyway.

the other thing i noticed as i was scoping the room for my place to sit, and then afterwards, was that it had the old-fashioned benches, with the mysterious “facing benches” i’d mostly only ever read about.  i remember when i first started coming to the sf meeting.  the chairs surrounded an old braided rug.  i decided that the people closest to the rug must be the most insider type people of the meeting, so i sat on the fringes (and even though the rug is gone and i’ve been told the rug means nothing, i still tend to do that).  i couldn’t figure out the meaning of the facing benches at the brooklyn meeting, so i decided to just steer clear of them.

the meeting was good.  people spoke.  my mind was far too busy.  the children’s program made a cute quaker village out of cardboard boxes in the social hall.

… and then back to the subway for the apple store appointment.  i walked past some cop cars and some police officers and some more police officers and a newsstand and kept walking until i realized i must have missed the station, so i turned around and found it, right at the newsstand.   like on the initial ride, i sweated like crazy, but i eventually got out at my stop, 14th street.

i walked past the 16th street exit, and the 15th street exit, and then got out on the right side of the street but then accidentally walked up to 15th anyway.  i walked up to 9th and found myself at chelsea market with some time to kill, so that was fun.  and then i got my laptop fixed.  it took 4 minutes.

except then back at our homebase, it’s still not working.  so it might be the connection here.  but i know what he did to make it work there, so i will try it again with another connection.

after i got back, we went to the brooklyn museum.  and as per their tradition, t and friend took me up to see judy chicago’s the dinner party. and even though i’m not a lesbian anymore and i know that the vag doesn’t make the lady…  that may have been the most spiritual moment of my day.

or maybe i was just geeking out with my feminist b.a. in religion self, recognizing names and histories and references and connections.  proud of what i knew.  probably still thinking too much.

Published in: on 15 July, 2012 at 7:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

america, why are your libraries full of tears?

it’s international blog against racism week! every year when this comes along, i find myself trapped in some sort of weird writer’s block. i want to say Something, and i usually have Lots to say on the topic, but now, this week, i can’t even begin.

i’m reading a collection of the writings of bayard rustin right now and i just read a peace about the journey of reconciliation. in 1946, the supreme court passed the morgan decision, which said that interstate travel wasn’t subject to jim crow laws. to test this, rustin and 15 others, black and white, took greyhound and trailways buses through the south, with the black folks sitting in the front and the white folks sitting in the back. they went on different trips, not all on the same bus at once, but there were always people of color and white folks participating in the experiment. the reactions were mixed, but rustin concludes that the predominant feeling was that of “confusion.” there was actually little violence and what there was was directed at the white folks participating. there was support and there was rage, but the men (they were all men) on these trips held steady.

what am i as a white ally doing that’s anything like this? what is the religious society of friends doing that’s anything like this? i’m romanticizing the past surely, but oh golly, we’ve gotten so comfortable. challenging things breaks us out of those comfort zones and it’s so hard to be bothered when we’ve got “martha stewart shams and sheets and sugar free powdered iced tea, vanilla coke, lemon pepsi, friends episodes on dvd” as kimya dawson sings about. we are trapped in some sort of ridiculous pleasuredome where all of these things keep consoling us. it’s not just quakers and maybe quakers are sort of better at breaking out of that consumerism thing than some other people, but we’re still stuck somewhere.

is that racism? “your problems can wait, my problems can wait, let’s watch some tv…” it’s despair. and laziness. and cowardice too, in this land of the brave. “i will never fix things so i will console myself with stuff… and i won’t talk to you because you are a stranger… and so i will never hear you and i will never realize i need to change and i will continue to be sad and yet content in my world of privilege…” is that racism? i think it’s all over america. i do it.

“America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic? ”
~from “America” by Allen Ginsberg

also…

when did it become quakerism, and not just… quaking?

take what you need and leave the rest.

today, i officially became a quaker.

i’m pretty excited. it felt right in a new big way. after my rocky time in between clearness committees, and going to quarterly meeting, and starting to actually really figure out what sort of role i have in the world/quakerism/my meeting, and having so many conversation dates and phone calls, i really REALLY feel part of this whole thing, in a way that i didn’t before i started the membership process. even the one month of seasoning, after my membership request was brought to last month’s business meeting, seemed to add to the richness of the moment.

it was pretty delightful. the elderly gentleman who was sitting next to me (who has come to the used bookstore i work in & who i visited in the hospital and loaned a book to that he keeps promising to return…) leaned over to me when my membership request was announced in business meeting and said, “i don’t know who that is!” and i laughed and pointed to myself and said, “that’s me!”

the moments afterward felt big somehow in this way i wasn’t expecting. it’s more of a formality in a way than the clearness committee, i think, but it felt less formal than that initially felt. i can’t express it except that i felt like we were really all part of a each other, and that i was really loved and respected by them (and i loved and respected them as well), which was so good.

and then it came time to ask who would be part of my welcoming committee, and the friend to my left offered to be part of it.

***

i sent out a text message that i was officially a quaker to a couple of people– and got a response that the person thought that had already happened and that i should blog about more nonquaker things. they’re right, i think, but i think i also just need to blog more in general. it’s hard, though, without internet in my own home, and the weird busyness of my life lately. frequently, when i get online now, i have to DO things– organize things for the young adult friends group, having email conversations about the state of our meeting in terms of race, diversity, young people, service, and a whole lot of other things, organizing one one one conversations about those things and others, organizing social justice conversations with people from my job, trying to find a bed on craigslist, applying for a summer job, figuring out what i need to do for employment in the fall… the list goes on and on. and isn’t super interesting as a list, i don’t think.

but here are some non-quaker things in my life right now.

* as of yesterday i have a bed and will no longer be sleeping on a folded in half shiatsu mat that my feet go off. it was free from this really great woman in oakland. yesterday, my ladyfriend and i took a zipcar truck to go get it and to move a couch from her friends’ house to hers.

* since the bed was free, i splurged and got 2 new pairs of pants and have set aside my ersatz attempts at trouser crotch patching for the time being.

* i’ve been having some really fun breakfast dates with a girl i went to college with who recently moved to the city.

* i’ve been eating beets as much as i possibly can. and have discovered how amazingly i can change a “just pasta, red sauce, and cheese” dish, if i put it in a casserole dish in the oven.

* i’ve had a lot of days off from my job at the school due to various holidays, including chinese new year.

* i scheduled a social justice conversation at my house on monday but the only person that showed up was my co-facilitator. that was sad, but it’s nice just drinking tea and chatting with someone in my house, and i should do more of that.

* my housemate had a friend stay over on our floor for a few days, and i kept getting into really long conversations with him in a way that’s totally different with how i interact with my housemates.

* yesterday, that housemate was diagnosed with one of those really scary staph infections that are resistant to basically everything. she doesn’t seem as worried as she did when she thought she might have it, so… that’s good?

* i’ve been booking up tons of my evenings and mornings with conversations and meetings and stuff and it’s been really good.

* my school job has been by turns frustrating and amazing. i’d say way more about that except for confidentiality and… TIME!!!

and then there are the myriad things that are going on in my psyche & soul that are not really quaker-specific in the grand scheme of things, but that have been hugely helped along by my quaker practice and community (with plenty of help from spiritual books from various traditions, conversations with non-quakers, co-dependents anonymous literature, and life in general). i want to write about those, too, and will some day, hopefully. but now i have to clean the store.

yesterday, i had this deep conversation about peace and war and how war is so much easier to do than peace, but that peace is so much more worth it. growing up, i always wondered “can’t we all just get along”? and the older i get along, the more i recognize the difficulty in that, and how rewarding facing the challenge is. and how our current power structure works around oppression via war– the rich and powerful sending the oppressed out to fight those they wish to oppress. and how rewarding that is for the powerful and rich. and how hard it is to have hope living in that sort of power structure. we talked about utopian communities vs. making small changes but still being complicit in so many ways and the pros and cons of buying local food.

anyway… this came to me again on the bart to meeting and then again at meeting. i had this message about this difficulty and how meeting is a place to find inner peace to take into the meeting community to practice our peace skills for the broader world. i felt the familiar tingly feeling i’ve come to recognize as a nudge to speak. i took a deep breath and…

someone else stood. and said something very similar to what i’d been contemplating. and right behind me, i heard someone whisper something, and i whirled around and glared. except that i hardly faced them, couldn’t see, and whirled back immediately. which was SO RIDICULOUS! and so i started to sit there and beat myself up about it, which was also ridiculous.

i sat for awhile longer, facing my anger and my guilt and my pride and my frustration, and then i felt something deeper than before, and i stood and gave vocal ministry… in the second person! it was about that experience and ended with “and the message you were going to say is that peace is really difficult. and now you know it.”

***

other things:

* i’m feeling less cranky about my young adultness. i had some really enriching conversations with other young adults today which really helped me have patience with myself and remember some of the things to not be cranky about.

* i’ve been in a cranky-ish place in general. it always seems like when i am in a place of idealistic understanding of my place in the world, my patience with everybody is slimmer than usual.

* i’ve been testing a leading around a beyond diversity 101 training for trainers done by niyonu spann. i think i’m supposed to go, and i’ve talked to a few people about it, and am currently in contact with our ministry and oversight committee about some sort of group to help me test the leading and support me through the experience. once again, i’m just so full of gratitude at the support and love i get from these people. i feel like such a squeaky wheel, but people don’t seem to be covering their ears. it’s so good. thank you thank you thank you.

anticipation

(or “What I like, dread, is when people who know you in completely different ways end up in the same area. And you have to develop, this like, combination you, on the spot.”)

this is what i keep envisioning will happen, if my membership clearness committee happens at my house:

3 quakers show up at my house, in traditional plain dress.

my housemate answers the door, in full bondage gear.

hilarity ensues.

i’ve never seen any of these people in these exact clothes. and i really don’t expect anything very dramatic. and i don’t actually feel like my life is as divided as, say, angela chase in “my so-called life” (who is quoted in my subtitle up there). and it’s san francisco and everyone is used to everyone being quirky and different… but this vision is still stuck in my head.

Published in: on 16 October, 2007 at 5:33 pm  Comments (1)  

before i moved to san francisco, i lived in olympia, washington. i did americorps, and was active in a queer men’s group. in both of those organizations, i became active and vocal about race and general oppression issues. i organized an anti-oppression training for my americorps team because it looked like it wouldn’t happen otherwise (i had tons of help and had someone else come in to DO the training, but i was kind of “the squeaky wheel” that got it to actually happen), and started an anti-racism discussion group for the queer men’s group.

when i moved to san francisco, i was planning to continue on a similar path, but got busy with my various jobs, and just that whole job of acclimating. race in san francisco is different from race in olympia.

but in the past few weeks, i’ve started talking about it more, and particularly within the quaker meeting. i think it’s because it’s such a safe space for me, really, and because i have definitely done that whole “oblivious white liberal” thing my whole life, but then there’s the way that in a quaker context, i always have “soapbox or leading” questions. and it’s tricky.

there is a particular sorrow that comes from critiquing someone’s beloved project when they don’t expect it– and i’ve done that in the past month. and there is a particular joy in having someone else bring up issues that they’ve been struggling with and to just say, “yes, yes, thank you, yes, i am so glad i am not alone”– and i’ve done that in the past month.

i made a comment at the thursday night study group a couple of weeks ago about race and how it’s not hugely better than it was 50 years ago. which is just as simplistic as saying that it is, and… i wasn’t there. how do i know? and it’s just from gobbling down theory by people that i believe “know.”

and then this past week, we read about someone (not actually john woolman, though we talked about how he said similar things) who said that the effects of slavery on slaveholders was worse than on slaves. which made me go, (inside my head) “DUDE!? SERIOUSLY!?” because it feels a little gross. because while someone might be corrupted and that can be infinitely terrible in a way that is different from bodily suffering, i don’t think the two things can be compared. and any attempt comes out all wrong. (just like my 2007 statement about 1957 race relations.) but it got me thinking anyway about how that mindset is still here. white supremacy/privilege is all-pervasive still, and the thing that i think is worse is that it’s not as recognizable. “i DON’T think of myself as better than these people, OF COURSE, and yet, i am stomping all over them, but i don’t know it. and don’t tell me or else i’ll get defensive.” and that’s pretty corrupt.

also at this past thursday night study group, someone spoke about some ideas he’s had for how to get more people to come to our meeting. he had a great metaphor about how we are a beacon on a hill, but the path is completely obscured. which is true. and his ideas were really good, too.

but my immediate thought was of fear at our capacity for welcome.

i’ve felt really welcomed and loved at this meeting, and i’ve loved that, but there are moments where i just feel like it means that i am easily palatable.

and today at meeting i really thought i was supposed to say something. but i instead chose to sit with questions about where that feeling was coming from. it seemed to easy to say what i felt like i should say, and too other-critical and outward. but what i was going to say was a query:

are we prepared for what we want? can we be? we are welcoming, but are we ready to welcome strangers, strangers who remind us that before they came we were actually not perfect?

… which is a good question for me in all sorts of ways when i change the “we”s to “me”s, and i will sit with it myself, but i really need to start having more conversations about this community i’ve become a part of, and the way we all deal with privilege.

(i think what really got me started was this post about racism and christianity and how linked they are…)

***

i read the religion of jesus the jew at a recommendation of chris m. about my questions about where judaism and christianity meet, and i have to say that 95% of it was boring, hard to read, and not at all what i was looking for, but the other 5% was spot on and perfect and interest and answered a lot of questions…

and it also got me thinking about jesus’ religion as a religion of end times… and the way things sure as heck feel like they’re ending these days… that whole “we’re either going to blow ourselves up or just destroy the world with our decadence” thing…

i haven’t gone much further than that, but it’s been interesting.

***

in terms of my news that’s not happening just in my head… at today’s business meeting, they read my membership letter that i wrote on september 18 (366 days after i started coming to meeting. my rough drafts were written the day before). eep!

and i’ve not been blogging due to the lack of my own computer, but charles martin brought me his old computer, and once i actually get a wireless card for it, i’ll be around more.

Published in: on 14 October, 2007 at 9:18 pm  Comments (1)  

reading karen armstrong’s the battle for god and ann brashare’s 3rd sisterhood of the traveling pants book, girls in pants, i was startled to find a similar theme. the them and “moral” of both, seems to be that… when people feel bad about themselves and/or when they feel threatened, they get mean. this is, i guess, sort of obvious, but… i think we miss it a lot when we are dealing with difficult people. i thought about it a lot today at the peace vigil outside the federal building. mostly people who passed were really positive, but we had 2 really angry people, too. when i was hearing the happy honks, i thought about the idea i’ve heard some that “the tide has turned” and the way that this is linked to people’s frustration (mine included) that it took other people so long to realize that the war is wrong. i’ve heard (and i think said) “how could they be so stupid for so long?” but maybe not’s the right question. “why are they so hurt and scared and angry?” might be the right one. ministering to their hurts is probably the best way to win them over… but i’m still speaking of us & them…

and, also, i was a total grouchy brat yesterday, so it’s not like my insights into human nature are doing me a whole lot of practical good right now.

….

in other news, i was going over some quotes i marked from the battle for god and these got me thinking about quaker plain dress:

“Western observers were particularly dismayed by the spectacle of women returning to the veil, which they had seen as a symbol of Islamic backwardness and patriarchy since the days of Lord Cromer. But it was not experienced in this way by those Muslim women who voluntarily assumed Islamic dress for practical reasons and also as a way of casting off an alien Western identity. Donning a veil, a scarf, and a long dress could be a symbol of that ‘return to the self’ which Islamists were attempting with such difficulty in the postcolonial period…

Where Western men and women attempt to bring the body under the control of the human will in their gyms and workouts, and cling to this life by making teir bodies impervious to the process of time and ageing, the veiled Islamic body tacitly declars that it is under divine orders and oriented not toward this world but to transcendence. In the West, men and women often display and even flaunt their expensively acquired tans and finely honed bodies as a mark of privilege; Muslim bodies, concealed under layers of very similar clothing, emphasize the equality of the Islamic vision. By the same token, they assert the Koranic ideal of community over the individualism of Western modernity.”

… it’s funny because it gave me insight into my own trouble about plain dress. how plain dress and plain speech for me right now involve revealing all. all of who i am… believing that that’s important.

… i have more to say about both of those topics, but i have to go.

yesterday morning, somewhere in the middle of meeting, i pulled out my journal and wrote,

“i want everyone to be able to share this.
but if they’re not, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re wrong.
& if i don’t recognize that they are, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not.”

which i think is the same thing as my last entry, but in less words.

i had a good conversation with chris m about this and my post after meeting, and there was some moment where i said something that we both understood and that seemed to answer some of what i’ve been wrestling with, but i’ve forgotten it… but it had to do with my thought on revelation without revelation, and this specific historical moment.

i just keep wanting to make sure everyone gets the benefit of the doubt. and then i get all mixed up because i forget what going to quaker meeting is for.

things:

– is there going to be an a-ha moment for me? or is it happening? or has it already happened? or is there a series or a lifetime of them?

– if i think that everyone who does there best is doing fine and will be fine, what changes for me if i “become a quaker” if i’ve been doing my best thus far? will my best become better or have i not been doing my best thus far?

– if this is life-changing, what does it mean for my friends who are not interested in it for any number of really really valid reasons?

– what is it in the scriptures that make them speak more than other things that hit on the human experience really well? why is it “just” the bible? or is it? (it in those questions refers to scriptures?)

this is what i’ve been struggling with.

meanwhile… have any of you seen saved!?

Published in: on 26 February, 2007 at 9:10 pm  Comments (1)  

weird convoluted thought of last night:

if there is continuing revelation… can there be a revelation of non-revelation?

… i’ve been reading too much postmodern theory, i think.

but it makes sense to me in this weird way… i know of many people who have sought and not found. they’ve found something, but not jesus as the way the truth and the light. i’m not sure where i am in there– it shifts. but especially in reading the spiral staircase by karen armstrong, and watching her struggle with trying to find god and then letting go and THEN finding god… and my experience with twisting god into all of the demons of my childhood… and my seeking sometimes going smack into that… there is this idea that if you just approach it rightly and try hard enough… jesus will be there.

but if jesus keeps being the damage of our childhoods… why is it so important to fight it? it seems to come to a victim-blaming sort of thing… “sure, people acting in the name of christ did terrible things to you, but you still won’t be okay until you believe…”

why can’t revelation be something else– something that doesn’t look like revelation at all?

… people keep responding to my questions like that with answers that still sound like, “it doesn’t have to be christ… but people need more christ/it will eventually be christ/quakerism cannot exist without christ.”

i’m so new to this particular brand of faith. and it feels right, even though i struggle daily with christ and what that even means. it feels right because of the love and because of the way of approaching god. but if the christ-piece doesn’t fit in just right, maybe i’m not actually a quaker… and if then… what is there for me? there is nowhere else remotely like quakerism– if the doors are shut because my world was framed in such a way that christ confuses me… what then?